Montreal: A city of art

Elisabeth Hammond (PWRT ’19)

Montreal is a city of art, something you don’t really see unless you wander out of the port area. While the Old City is stunning in its own historical sense ─ with spiraling architecture and the sheer magnificence that is Notre Dame ─ the bustling pop-culture overtake in the rest of the city is pretty amazing too.

The first time I wandered randomly from the dorms and the Older City was also the first time I wandered into a forest of art. Boulevard de Maisonneuve displays so many beautiful walls of art that can’t fall into the category of “graffiti” and its negative connotations.

In all honesty I’m not one to get up and walk around for the fun of it, but the art on this street was something I had passed by a couple times on field trips and the couple times I got lost. The choice to wander back here on my own specifically for the art opened up an interesting prospect that an introvert like myself hadn’t originally thought of:

just wandering.

The following weekend a couple of old work friends appeared on short-notice for a day trip and offered to hang out. I rolled out of bed early for my sleep-in weekend and met up with them half an hour later. We exchanged hugs and hellos and “How has xyz been?” before pointing in a direction and walking.

And walking.

And walking.

The only way to tell the passing of time was the occasional glance at a phone, but three hours passed by, and noone realized until the resident Montreal excerpt piped up with the comment of, “I have no idea where we are.”

If it had been dark out, perhaps I would have worried ─ but I was with two people I trusted in the middle of the afternoon with nothing else to do. So in response to the realization of being lost, we all shrugged and started wandering yet again until something familiar popped up. (It was the metro stop Pie-IX. Considering how hungry we were growing, we opted to take the metro back to McGill and find something to eat.)

The following Sunday all it took was a short Google search to go galavanting down a side street I didn’t know existed in search of a tiny cafe for food, or even finding the slightly longer route to a poutine restaurant for a Food Writing field trip.

The small adventures off the normal road, I’ve found, turn into sweet surprises that brighten my day. It’s by no means extravagant nor something I’d search out on the regular, but on the occasional times that they do occur I shrug and let them happen.

I was born in a tiny city and grew up in a smaller town. The extent of “busy life” I know of is passing through an in-between bigger-than-my-home-but-not-a-city town on the way to an actual city. Burlington is leisurely and Huntington is comatose in regards to activity and things to do, but both ─ as well as the entirety of Vermont ─ offer something Montreal doesn’t have: quiet.

School is best survived by creating a routine you can rely on, because inevitably life will throw a curveball when you least expect it (and least want it to happen). A sanctuary can be anything from a pastime to a lifeline, and doesn’t even need to be the house you grew up in; not everyone can call their childhood house “home.” Perhaps, for some, Montreal is their sanctuary.

I visited home this weekend because no matter how much I love the liveliness and endless excitement that Montreal offers, sometimes I simply need the sureness of silence. A place where the mountains cradle you day and night away from the weather; a place where nothing really happens above a whisper; a place where everything is certain because you know exactly how your house works and which stairs creak when you sneak down to reset the wifi.

I live in nowhere Vermont on a road called “Main” because it’s the only one that goes through my town. I live in nowhere Vermont where anything larger than a standard car passing by is weird because where could they possibly be going? I live in nowhere Vermont where it takes an hour to get to the grocery store and if you’re out of food, tough luck, the next best thing is grass. Yet somehow the casual skip from nowhere Vermont to somewhere Montreal felt like nothing until I lived here.

It has truly made me appreciate the “nowhere-ness” of my home. Because sometimes we all need a little quiet and stability that’s not our own. A sanctuary, if you will.

I truly love Montreal and, in all honesty, have a high chance of staying here after I graduate. I have been endlessly surprised at the opportunities and open doors I’ve found here as I learn how to take my life into my own hands and work for what I want. Not to mention everyone has been extremely supportive of my aspirations and helped me work towards them. Unrealistically, I even applied for a job! Will I get it? Of course not, but the experience of applying for a job in my career field is now under my belt and something I can navigate better in the future.